What others say: When is it time to talk revenue?

  • By Juneau Empire editorial
  • Wednesday, April 29, 2015 3:44pm
  • Opinion

The prospect of the state of Alaska generating more revenue during these budget-bewildering times is a warming thought to Alaskans. But residents must be careful when discussions about “revenue” finally do begin, because we’ve noticed lately that the words “revenue” and “taxes” mean the same thing to many lawmakers and officials.

For the state, increasing existing taxes and implementing new ones is revenue, just not the type Alaskans are thinking of. What residents are wanting to hear are big ideas; ones that draw new industry to Alaska, grow the industries we already have, or which lead to new resource development and the creation of jobs.

Many argue that’s what Medicaid expansion will do for Alaska after $1.1 billion in “new revenue” is added to state coffers — if the program is expanded. Yes, Medicaid dollars fit the definition of “revenue” in technical terms, but expanding state government through federal dollars isn’t the kind of long-term sustainability Alaska needs if we’re to ever ween ourselves from North Slope oil.

Many lawmakers in influential positions have said state spending needs to be curtailed first before talking about growing revenue. That could be a while at the pace we’re going.

Funding from transportation to education has been on the butcher’s block since the legislative session began, and despite carving out healthy chunks from every departmental operating budget, Alaska will still be about $3 billion in the red when the next legislative session begins. We can’t wait until another billion dollars or so is cut before deciding how to grow revenue; the state budget can’t sustain itself off of fishing, mining and tourism alone. We need a new billion-dollar idea, and we need it now.

A liquified natural gasline is perhaps the best replacement for dwindling oil prices, and it’s the sort of big idea we need right now. But any new income from that is years away, and that’s if progress continues uninterrupted. Sadly, the Capital Budget Reserve could be wiped out and a state income tax implemented before ever collecting a penny on a liquified natural gasline.

Gov. Bill Walker has said repeatedly that Alaska doesn’t have a spending problem, it has a revenue problem. We agree, for the most part, though the state’s spending did balloon to unsustainable levels thanks to years of high oil prices and the naivete they would never again fall.

It’s too late in this session to talk revenue, regardless of various parties’ interpretation of what that means. But next year, when lawmakers again are called to Juneau to handle the state’s business, it will be well past time to define what “revenue” means for the state and its citizens — and to bring new, fresh ideas to the table. Those talks should have happened this session, and we can’t afford to let another pass.

Alaska doesn’t have enough revenue to wait until 2017.

— Juneau Empire, April 26

More in Opinion

t
Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Down to the wire: Be prepared before you vote

Remember your voice counts and all votes matter

Soldotna City Council member Justin Ruffridge. (Courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: We must refuse to reward ugly political tactics

With our vote we have to show that extremism and dishonesty do not win the day